Chasing Freedom

Chasing Freedom  by Gloria Ann Wesley

This was an aspect of Canadian history that I wasn’t aware of. In the case of this novel, I didn’t know that freed slaves were transplanted from their homes in the United States to Nova Scotia, Canada. Imagine the upheaval of leaving the only home you’ve ever known (in this case, a plantation on South Carolina), and being moved to Nova Scotia where you will make your new home. Not to mention, attaining your freedom before making this journey.

“The American Revolutionary War is being waged, and the fate of slaves in the colonies is on the line. Sarah Redmond, a slave on a South Carolina plantation, watches with a heavy heart as her father steals away in the dead of the night to join the British army, enticed by promises of freedom, land and provisions for his whole family. But before her father can return, the war draws to a close and the Loyalist slaves are all freed — including Sarah and her grandmother, Lydia. Uncertain of their future, Sarah and Lydia join the thousands who are rounded up and sent to New York to prepare for their journey to a new home somewhere in the British colonies.
After months of waiting, the Redmonds are assigned to a ship bound for the first all-black community in North America: Birchtown, Nova Scotia. With their Certificates of Freedom in hand, Lydia and Sarah wait anxiously, hoping beyond hope that their new life will bring acceptance and happiness. But once they reach Birchtown they find that their new home is barren, cold and isolated — and in a world slow to forget old fears and hate, their Certificates offer them freedom in name only.
Chasing Freedom is the story of a young woman struggling to discover who she is and what she can become in a world that offers her few opportunities. Can Sarah and her family find the strength and determination to persevere against all odds?” (Goodreads)

I enjoyed this novel, and was both pleased and saddened throughout. Pleased because of the dreams and opportunities Sarah Redmond had for herself and her life. And saddened because of the treatment she suffered just because of her skin colour…even though she was a free woman!!

*My progress for the Canadian Book Challenge is 12/13!!

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The Year of Less

The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away my Belongings, and Discovered Life is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store by Cait Flanders

I always enjoy reading books about people decluttering and getting rid of their stuff. Then books like this usually inspire to take a look at areas in my home and life where I could declutter. I get a bit of a high when it’s time to declutter! This book has been on my TBR list for only a few months, and I saw it on display at my library and decided to read it now. And, bonus, I was surprised to find out that the author is Canadian so I can use it for the Canadian Book Challenge for this year! Yay!

“In her late twenties, Cait Flanders found herself stuck in the consumerism cycle that grips so many of us: earn more, buy more, want more, rinse, repeat. Even after she worked her way out of nearly $30,000 of consumer debt, her old habits took hold again. When she realized that nothing she was doing or buying was making her happy—only keeping her from meeting her goals—she decided to set herself a challenge: she would not shop for an entire year.
The Year of Less documents Cait’s life for twelve months during which she bought only consumables: groceries, toiletries, gas for her car. Along the way, she challenged herself to consume less of many other things besides shopping. She decluttered her apartment and got rid of 70 percent of her belongings; learned how to fix things rather than throw them away; researched the zero waste movement; and completed a television ban. At every stage, she learned that the less she consumed, the more fulfilled she felt.
The challenge became a lifeline when, in the course of the year, Cait found herself in situations that turned her life upside down. In the face of hardship, she realized why she had always turned to shopping, alcohol, and food—and what it had cost her. Unable to reach for any of her usual vices, she changed habits she’d spent years perfecting and discovered what truly mattered to her.” (Goodreads)

I was impressed with the author keeping track of everything that she got rid of in her house, and at how little she ended up keeping, including her wardrobe. But, as the book shows us, it takes us through her entire year and her thought processes behind why she keeps certain items and why she lets go of others.

The book isn’t just about decluttering though (although that’s my favourite part about it). It’s really about her changing her spending habits to actually saving money…which seems rare in this consumerism world that we live in. It makes me stop and think about my spending habits and where I could improve on those…and why I purchase what I do. Very thought-provoking!

*My progress for the Canadian Book Challenge is 11/13!!

The Marrow Thieves

The Marrow Thieves  by Cherie Dimaline

This YA book had an interesting premise, similar to other books in the genre of our future being completely changed and different. This book has action, adventure, some romance, and stories.

In a futuristic world ravaged by global warming, people have lost the ability to dream, and the dreamlessness has led to widespread madness. The only people still able to dream are North America’s Indigenous people, and it is their marrow that holds the cure for the rest of the world. But getting the marrow, and dreams, means death for the unwilling donors. Driven to flight, a fifteen-year-old and his companions struggle for survival, attempt to reunite with loved ones and take refuge from the “recruiters” who seek them out to bring them to the marrow-stealing “factories.” ” (Goodreads)

I loved how the characters join together and become a family, as they travel along, trying to survive and avoid being caught. This is a great YA book for anyone interested in Indigenous novels.

*My progress for the Canadian Book Challenge is 10/13!!

The Boat People

The Boat People by Sharon Bala

This was an interesting book, and it’s very “of the times” in that there are always seemingly refugees wanting to enter other countries. I listened to the audiobook version of this book, and I enjoyed hearing the story as it unfolds from the three different perspectives invovled in this case.

“When a rusty cargo ship carrying Mahindan and five hundred fellow refugees from Sri Lanka’s bloody civil war reaches Vancouver’s shores, the young father thinks he and his six-year-old son can finally start a new life. Instead, the group is thrown into a detention processing center, with government officials and news headlines speculating that among the “boat people” are members of a separatist militant organization responsible for countless suicide attacks—and that these terrorists now pose a threat to Canada’s national security. As the refugees become subject to heavy interrogation, Mahindan begins to fear that a desperate act taken in Sri Lanka to fund their escape may now jeopardize his and his son’s chance for asylum.

Told through the alternating perspectives of Mahindan; his lawyer, Priya, a second-generation Sri Lankan Canadian who reluctantly represents the refugees; and Grace, a third-generation Japanese Canadian adjudicator who must decide Mahindan’s fate as evidence mounts against him, The Boat People is a spellbinding and timely novel that provokes a deeply compassionate lens through which to view the current refugee crisis.” (Goodreads)

*My progress for the Canadian Book Challenge is 9/13!!

A Knock on the Door

A Knock on the Door: The Essential History of Residential Schools from The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada

I enjoy learning about history, and this book was all about the history of the residential schools. It also included the Calls to Action from The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. I had never read through the Calls before, but I found them to be quite extensive. This book would be great for anyone interested in knowing more about the residential schools and also those who are wanting to work towards reconciliation.

” ‘It can start with a knock on the door one morning. It is the local Indian agent, or the parish priest, or, perhaps, a Mounted Police officer…The officials have arrived and the children must go.” So began the school  experience of many Indigenous children in Canada for more than a hundred years, and so begins the history of residential schools prepared by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC). Between 2008 and 2015, the TRC provided opportunities for individuals, families, and communities to share their experiences of residential schools and released several reports based on 7000 Survivor statements and 5 million documents from government, churches, and schools, as well as a solid grounding in secondary sources.” (Back cover of book).

*My progress for the Canadian Book Challenge is 8/13!!

The Lightkeeper’s Daughters

The Lightkeeper’s Daughters  by  Jean E. Pendziwol

I really enjoyed this story and could hardly put it down!!! I loved how the story within the story was revealed slowly throughout the book…making the reader read until the end to reveal everything and answer all of the questions/wonderings that were brought up.

The book is set at a lighthouse station on Lake Superior, and I wish I had checked a map during the reading of this book to give myself a picture of the geography of where it took place and to where they travelled.

I’d recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a slowly-revealed story within a story, and also to fans of Kate Morton.

Here’s the description from Goodreads.

Though her mind is still sharp, Elizabeth’s eyes have failed. No longer able to linger over her beloved books or gaze at the paintings that move her spirit, she fills the void with music and memories of her family—a past that suddenly becomes all too present when her late father’s journals are found amid the ruins of an old shipwreck.

With the help of Morgan, a delinquent teenager performing community service, Elizabeth goes through the diaries, a journey through time that brings the two women closer together. Entry by entry, these unlikely friends are drawn deep into a world far removed from their own—to Porphyry Island on Lake Superior, where Elizabeth’s father manned the lighthouse seventy years before.

As the words on these musty pages come alive, Elizabeth and Morgan begin to realize that their fates are connected to the isolated island in ways they never dreamed. While the discovery of Morgan’s connection sheds light onto her own family mysteries, the faded pages of the journals hold more questions than answers for Elizabeth, and threaten the very core of who she is.” (Goodreads)

*My progress for the Canadian Book Challenge is 7/13!!

Entering the world of Harry Potter…with my kids

I’ve been an avid fan of Harry since my first  reading of the first book. Since then I’ve read the series numerous times throughout the years and have loved every minute of that experience.

Since my kids were born (10 and 7 years ago) I started slowly buying them their own copies of the series so that they’d each have a complete set of their own one day. And I’ve been eagerly waiting for that day when they’d be old enough for me to share these fascinating stories with them.

That magical day came one week ago. Well, to back up a bit, about a month ago I was reading a few of the Narnia books to my oldest, and he told me that when we had finished our Narnia books then he’d let me start reading HP to him. I think I cheered when I heard that…it was a day long-awaited for me, and I knew he was old enough for the first few books…was just waiting for him to be ready to start.

So, I was immensely excited to begin this journey with my sons. I even gave them a bit of a speech (lol) about how special Harry is to me and how much I love him. Then we jumped right in!! It was after the fifth chapter that my eldest declared “this is officially my new favourite series!” That made my heart sing even more!!!

We finished reading #1 this morning, and we plan on starting #2 after school today. As much as I love sharing this series with my kids, it’s the quality time spent reading to them that I love even more. Yes, it helps that it’s something I’m passionate about and it’s great seeing their interest in the story and characters, but it’s so important for me to invest in their childhoods with quality time and enriching their lives with the experience of reading a new story and witnessing them discovering this magical world!

As many times as I’ve read this book, there are some moments that are more emotional than others. Reading this book out loud and all the love and history I have with HP, there were some moments that got me very emotional, with tears in my eyes or not even being able to read because I’m crying. The first moment came at the last sentence of Chapter One:

He couldn’t know that at this very moment, people meeting in secret all over the country were holding up their glasses and saying in hushed voices: ‘To Harry Potter – the boy who lived!’   (p 18)

Wow!!!!! Talk about a great way to finish the first chapter. And what a special ‘toast’ to a boy who doesn’t even know that the fact that he lived is the most amazing moment to the wizarding world. Got choked up on that one for sure!

The next spot was during a Quidditch match when Malfoy has some insults against Neville:

Neville went bright red but turned in his seat to face Malfoy.

‘I’m worth twelve of you, Malfoy,’ he stammered.

Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle howled with laughter, but Ron, still not daring to take his eyes from the game, said, ‘You tell him, Neville.’        (p 163)

Aw, Neville!!! All that he does and is in the future books…I love this one moment where he gets the courage to stand up to the bullies! And Neville knows his self-worth which is amazing!

I also cried at the end when Hagrid gives Harry the scrapbook of pics of his parents. That moment had never really touched me strongly before; but knowing the power of a photograph, this was a really beautiful gift.

And, last but not least, cried the most with this one…Dumbledore’s final speech at the End of Year feast, when he’s giving out the final points to Harry, Ron, Hermione and Neville. Again, I could barely get through the sentence about Neville. So admirable that Neville’s courage was recognized…this time for standing up to his friends, not his enemies. Dumbledore puts it so beautifully:

‘There are all kinds of courage,’ said Dumbledore, smiling. ‘It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends. I therefore award ten points to Mr Neville Longbottom.’   (p 221)

At this point in reading the book, my oldest was saying “stop crying about it…JUST READ!!!” He knew we were so close to the end of the book, and also so close to the time we had to leave for school…so he just wanted to be able to finish it before then.

So, that sums up my first foray into Harry Potter with my kids. So happy to be started on this journey with them as I introduce them to this wonderful series.